European Commission: Current adequacy decisions and the decisions on standard contractual clauses are illegal

At the end of September I reported in my blog that the European Commission is currently working on two draft Commission Implementing Decisions amending the existing adequacy decisions (on the level of protection in certain third countries) and the decisions on standard contractual clauses (EU Model Clauses). The so-called Art. 31 Committee (composed of representatives of the Member States) discussed these drafts on 3 October 2016.

A summary record of this meeting has now been published (txt).

According to this summary, the Commissions’ drafts refer in particular to the amendment of the existing decisions in order to remove any restriction and limitations on the powers of national supervisory authorities, as I have already suggested in the blog contribution at the time.

The European Court of Justice in its Schrems ruling invalidating Safe Harbor declared that such a restriction was inadmissible and that the Commission exceeded its powers.

However, the Commission’s finding at the meeting of 3 October is likely to be particularly explosive, in view of the fact that the decisions currently in place are illegal. According to the summary record, the European Commission

explained that the purpose of both draft decisions is to cure the illegality that follows from the findings in the Court of Justice’s Schrems ruling.

This conclusion should not necessarily come as a surprise to many observers. However, it is at least interesting to see that it is published in a minutes of the meeting as a statement by the European Commission.

Apparently, certain delegations were not yet ready to take a decision and asked to be given more time. It was therefore decided to convene a further meeting in the coming weeks. In the meantime, the Article 29 Working Party (the assembly of the European Data Protection Authorities) will be asked to present its views on the two draft decisions.

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